Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Trying really hard to understand Glenn Beck

I'm trying really hard to get Glenn Beck.  I'm trying really hard to understand where he is coming from and how he can say the things he says.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the types of things Mr.Beck says, here is a recent example from his on-line show called

Here a quote from the show: 

If you [the capitalists] think you can play footsies with these people [the Occupy Wall Street people], you're wrong. They will come for you, drag you into the streets, and kill you.
And also this little gem:

In the end, [the Occupy Wall Street People] will kill you.  [...] They will kill everybody.

That's right, Glenn Beck thinks that the Occupy Wall Street crowd is going to kill the capitalists of the world before going on to kill everybody.  Yep.  Everybody.

What can you say to a statement like that?  It's untrue and divisive at best.

What's his motive? What does he want to accomplish?  What does he want to happen?

Well, he is clear about how to deal with the protesters.

[It would be great if we could just get the government] to send in marines and tanks to stop it.
So, the best way to prevent the peaceful protesters from killing us all?  Send in the marines and tanks!

People like Mr.Beck often accuse the Occupy Wall Street movement of having no message.  Naomi Wolf actually took the time to solicit protesters on-line and asked them what they wanted.  This is what they said (in order of popularity):
  • Get the money out of politics
  • Reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation,
  • Draft laws against the loophole that allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.
There is no call to violence, no screed against capitalism, just good sensible things that most sane people would readily agree to.  It's hard to imagine where Mr. Beck gets this "kill 'em all" from.

Mr. Beck's send-in-the-marines-and tanks approach is what we are seeing at the moment in Egypt.

Valiant pro-democracy advocates are throwing themselves up against the army's barricades. The army are aiming high with rubber bullets and people are losing eyes. Conventional bullets are breaking bones and killing.  And people are dying from inhaling an especially toxic brew of tear gas*.

As Khalid Abdalla said recently, "You cannot enforce stability. If you try and enforce stability, the cracks will be volcanic and they will melt you away."

Glenn Beck's solution would not make things better, but a lot lot worse.  When I see old ladies being pepper sprayed, or seated and peaceful students being pepper sprayed, or violent crackdowns on protesters, it doesn't make me want to be quiet because I fear those things might happen to me.  It has the opposite effect. It makes me angrier and want to be involved even more.

So what is Mr. Beck up to?  My best guess is that he has gained popularity by saying some outrageous things in the mould of Ann Coulter**, and is now riding the wave of a conspiracy-hungry, jingo-fuelled subculture of people who are frightened about what is happening to their country.

When Glenn Beck is an old man on his deathbed and is looking back at his life, is he going to look back at these statements with pride?  If he going to be happy that he called for tanks as a solution to quash peaceful protesters? Is he going to say "Yeah, me and Chinese Premier Li Ping had it right.  He thought tanks were a good way to deal with Tienanmen Square, just as I did with Liberty Plaza"

And just to be clear, burning effigies of people, putting a picture of some guy's head on a pike, and refusing John Lewis the right to speak is not cool and helps no one.

* Supplied by a company called Combined Systems based out of Jamestown, Pennsylvania
** Here's a classic Ann Coulter quote: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity"

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Primordial Soup
As my neighbours to the south celebrate Thanksgiving Day, I thought I would take a moment to reflect upon what I am thankful for.

I am fortunate enough to not have to worry about food in my belly, water to quench my thirst, shelter over my head, or loved ones for companionship.

There is something unique and wonderful about being alive in this time.  We have access to things that even the most fortunate ones of days gone by did not have.

I am talking about knowledge.  Pure unadulterated knowledge that has been brought about by the mechanisms of science.  This knowledge is freely available and you don't need to be a rocket scientist to appreciate it.

The following facts and thousands of others just like it were unavailable to the vast majority of our ancestors.

  • At the centre of the earth is a moon-sized ball composed of a nickel-iron alloy.
  • In 1953, Watson and Crick cracked the DNA molecule revealing the building blocks that (almost) every species on earth uses to construct itself.
  • Somewhere in the primordial soup billions of years ago, a single self-replicating entity came into existence.  We are all descendants of that entity.
  • There are over 100 billion galaxies.

We are truly lucky to be alive during the age of science.

With great knowledge comes great responsibility.

In days gone by, we were told about the ills of the world but could do little about it.  How could you help those in Africa during the early 20th century?  It was just too hard.

Now we have numerous tools to act on the information we are given.

And that is also something to be thankful about.  Science has given us the opportunity to help others less fortunate than ourselves.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Watch Fox News, Be Uniformed

Glenn Beck
I love this research from Fairleigh Dickinson University. It shows that people who watch Fox News are less informed about issues than those who watch no news at all.

Brilliant.  Let's all have a good laugh at Fox.

What type of news do you want?

I want an independent source.  There are two ways to do this as far as I can see.

One, is to be supported by your listeners.  Democracy Now!  is a great example of this. They are a listener supported service and refuse any corporate sponsorship.

The second way is state sponsored, provided the state doesn't call the shots.

The bad side of state sponsored media raised its ugly head during the recent uprising in Egypt.  Newscasters spewed government propaganda during the height of the protests.  It was great to see Soha el-Nakash resign from Egypt TV after 20 years of service due to the coverage of the protest.

I do not want corporate sponsored for-profit media.  Fox News and its buddies can go hang.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why I am a vegetarian

In order:

  1. The Environment
    I stand aghast as we wreck out planet.  Our political leaders seem more interested in legislating the problem away as opposed to facing the problem.

    The U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen was hamstrung by back room deals. Developed nations bullied developing countries into signing deals.  Aid was used as a bribe.

    The subsequent conference in Cancun was largely ignored by the media. The media rooms were like ghost towns.  Those closest to making a change were the environmental activists that protested.

    I am tired of those who think that climate change is a myth, or worse still some sort of conspiracy perpetrated by a Illuminati-esque group of scientists.

    I am tired of those that confuse weather with climate: "It is cold today, therefore global warming is a myth".

    The world's food system account for about 33% of what's heating up the planet. That's everything from cow farts through to transport and food preparation.  The biggest single offender is livestock production, accounting for 18 per cent of global warming.

    Not eating meat is my F.U. to those who oppose global warming and my small part to reduce my impact on our planet.
  2. Animal Suffering
    There is an unstated assumption that less intelligent animals feel less pain.  It is somehow better to cruelly torture a mouse than it is a dolphin.

    Why is that?

    As Richard Dawkins points out, this is not as clean cut as we might think.  Pain is an incredibly useful adaptation that has been selected for under natural selection.  An animal feels pain, and it does something to lessen the pain.

    Pain is primal and it is arrogant of anyone to assume that animals do not suffer.

    Even if I wasn't a vegetarian, I wouldn't eat Halal meat and fail to see how advertising your Halal meat is a good thing.

    According to Wikipedia, Halal meat production is the:

    [...] method of slaughtering animals [that] consists of using a well sharpened knife to make a swift, deep incision that cuts the front of the throat, the carotid artery, wind pipe and jugular veins but leaves the spinal cord intact

    Not for me thanks.
  3. Momentum 
    I've been a vegetarian for about two years now.  Momentum keeps me going!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gloria Arroyo is Arrested. Boo yah!

How the mighty have fallen
A number of years ago I got the chance to visit the Human Rights Office in Manila.  They have a wall inside covered with pictures of people who have been tortured and killed by government goons under the reign of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

It is a humbling site.  There are journalists, environmentalists, union leaders, and those fighting to get people out of the sex industry up on that wall.

In the most pleasing news out of the Philippines for a long time, Arroyo has been arrested for electoral fraud, which could see her imprisoned for life.


Arroyo tried to flee the country under the guise of ill health.  She claims to have some sort of bone disease to which I call bullshit.

How the mighty have fallen
In reminds me of the pathetic sight of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on a hospital bed as he faced charges of conspiring to kill 800 of his fellow citizens during the uprising.

It seems that being a former dictator is bad for your health.

Former President Arroyo, I raise my glass to your upcoming incarceration.  Long may it last.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Storming Brookfield and Avoiding Arrest

The time has come
Stay, make a stand for human arrests and get arrested?  Or get the hell out of there?

That was dilemma a group of friends and I faced  on Human Rights Day 2008.

We were protesting against the enforced sexual enslavement of 200,000 women during WWII at the hands of the Japanese military.  We were outside the Japanese embassy and were faced with a wall of Korean riot police.

A vote was cast by the protesters and it was decided that we would retreat and take our message to the street.  My vote was to stay.

In a way, I regret that we retreated.  If we stayed and got arrested, it would have made for a powerful headline: Foreigners gets arrested in Korea on human rights day by the Korean police for protesting human rights violations against Koreans.*

Here is the video that I made about the protest:

I was in a similar position today.  I joined with the Occupy Vancouver movement as an act of solidarity with those protesting in New York (where the shit is hitting the proverbial fan as I write this).

We marched to the Vancouver offices of Brookfield Asset Management.  Brookfield has way too much sway in U.S. Politics.  Michael Bloomberg - the mayor of New York City - is basically Brookfield's bitch.

Inside the reception area for the building Brookfield is in
After some chants outside of the offices, some of the protesters stormed forward and actually went into the building.  Wheee!

Other protesters with hesitant.  There was a line in the sand. Step over that line and arrest became a possibility.

I too hesitated.  I did not want to get arrested.

Why the change of heart compared to that day three years ago?

I am currently applying for permanent residency here in Canada.  If I break the law, it is almost certain that my application will be rejected.

The girl that I love dearly is in Canada. This is where we are building our life together. For the first time in seven or so years I have put down some roots.  I don't want to mess that up.

The occupation of the Brookfield offices did end peacefully. I did enter the building in the end and got a number of pictures.

* The one thousandth protest outside the Korean embassy is happening on December 14th 2011.  If you are in Seoul, I urged you to make your way to the Japanese Embassy and stand with the Korean grandmothers.

There is an event planned for Otawa/Toronto. Contact Angela Lytle at for more info.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sharing my Mental Health Story on National TV

That's me in the crazy house
Just recently I was interviewed on the Joey Albert show about the work I recently completed in Uganda

You can watch the interview on the Filipino Online TV Canada site.  Look for episode 4 of the Joey Albert Show.

Joey asked my about my life story and how I came to be doing what I am doing.  I related my story about my journey through mental hell that included a five month stay at a psychiatric institution called Ashburn Clinic.

I try to be as open and honest as I can be about my mental health issues, but it is sometimes hard to articulate what happened.

The Malcolm then is so much different to the Malcolm now.

Crazy Malcolm was hell bent on self destruction and very nearly succeeded.  I only survived with the help of some very loving people who get a nod on the side of the school I helped build in Uganda.

Ashburn Clinic was both the best and the worst place to be.

It was the best in that I no doubt left healthier than when I arrived.

It was the worst in that there were some truly sick people around me.  Skeleton like girls with eating disorders would be helped around the ward in case they fell down and broke brittle bones.  A grown man sobbing like a child because he longed for a relationship with his parents, while at others time enraged and wishing his parents were rotting in hell for forcing him into a paedophile ring.  And a young man hanging from a home made noose.

And me in the middle of it all doing my own fucked up things.

I remember that exact moment I decided to leave.  (I was there voluntarily).  It was at a hospital meeting that we had once every week where all the staff and patients met in the gym.  One of the patients struggling with substance abuse had smuggled in some alcohol and was promptly kicked out.

I asked if that was the policy of the clinic.  One staff member confirmed that it was and then the director of the clinic (no less!) berated me for my "uncaring attitude" and my "indifference to others".  I was shocked that she would not only publicly berate me, but also question my love for the people I had become very close to.

I remember thinking that I didn't need this shit any more and began making plans to get my life back on track.

And six year later here I am!

There is so much more I could talk about with my mental health issues.  Several people have asked me to write a book about it. About how I went from a successful I.T. manager, to the depths of mental hell, to building solar powered schools in Uganda.

Maybe I will write a book about it someday.  But not today.  I have another school to build.

Wall Street 101: Cleaning a Clean Park and Making a Safe Park Safe

Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
In the early hours of Tuesday morning protesters at the Occupy Wall Street protesters were evicted by police so that  local authorities can clean a clean park and make a safe park safe.

It is just pathetic.

Taking a leaf from what happened in Tahrir Square in Egypt, the protesters obsess about keeping Zuccotti Park one of the cleanest places in all of New York.

First aids tents, security teams, and even a fire department of sorts help make the park a very safe place.

This crackdown won't stop the movement.  It will make it stronger.

The 1% is worried and the 1% are out of ideas.

Welcome to the revolution. Our elites have exposed their hand. They have nothing to offer. They can destroy but they cannot build. They can repress but they cannot lead. They can steal but they cannot share. They can talk but they cannot speak. They are as dead and useless to us as the water-soaked books, tents, sleeping bags, suitcases, food boxes and clothes that were tossed by sanitation workers Tuesday morning into garbage trucks in New York City. They have no ideas, no plans and no vision for the future. 

Chris Hedges

Monday, November 14, 2011

Seven Billions Kids and Counting

“The Empowerment Of Women Is The Only Cure For Poverty We Know”
Christopher Hitchens

A man I met in Kitgum together with
some of his wives and children
I love that quote!

It's something I strive to do in my work with Meaningful Volunteer. It is not coincidence that both of our district managers are women.  A tip of the hat to Eden and Esther.

Nor is it a coincidence that our various fair trade projects around the world are made up entirely of women.

Reproductive health options are critical to the empowerment of women and the reduction of poverty.

Having less children not only reduces the strain on the mother, it also:

  • Reduces the chance of civil war
    Rwanda is a hilly country with limited arable land.  One of the reasons that genocide exploded in 1994 was that there just wasn't enough land to go around and this exasperated the already tense situation between the Hutu and Tutsi.

    Anyone who opposes condoms in Sub-Saharan Africa needs to be slapped.
  • Helps the environment
    Not having kids is the most environmentally friendly thing you can do.

    Having 19 kids and taking them on a world tour is downright irresponsible.  The environmental impact from that one trip alone is staggering.

    If I were to choose a mother of the year award, it wouldn't go to Michelle Duggar, the mother of the aforementioned 19 kids.  I'd chose from among the countless women around the world taking running fantastic foster homes.  That's like having negative children.
  • Reduces poverty
    Scant resources like water and good go further in developing countries when there are less mouths to feed.

    Everyone likes those cute little Africa kids right?  Well I certainly do, but sometimes it is just too much.  During my recent 4 or so months stay in the small Ugandan village of Buyaya, the kids were like mosquitoes.  They were everywhere and it often became too overbearing for me.

According to U.N. estimates, the world population hit 7 billion people on Halloween 2011.  Some people believe this is already to much.

Reducing fertility rates down to replacement rates of 2.2 children per women is a good start.  Glorifying having 19 kids is not.

Friday, November 11, 2011

This is journalism? Seriously?

Have a look at this YouTube video.

It's from CNN's Erin Burnett.  In the clip she mocks Occupy Wall Street protesters.

She says that the whole movement would go away if people knew that the taxpayers benefited from the Wall Street bailout.  Banks were giving $100 billion to reinvest in low income communities.

Two quick rebuttals:

  • One wonders how taxpayers benefited from paying for a $700 billion bill.
  • And why on earth are the big banks being giving tax dollars to invest in communities?  Isn't that the governments job?

Let's take a look at an example of how this money has been used.  Goldman Sachs gave $5,000 dollars to a Lower East Side bank that caters to poor people.

That all sounds good, right? A big bank that favours the rich giving money to a small bank that favours the poor.

So maybe Erin Burnett has a point.  The big banks are honouring their agreement with the money they were given.

Well, not quite.  Let's scratch at the surface a bit and see if we get any sort of rash.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has so many donations coming its way that it did the only sensible thing.  They opened an account at the aforementioned Lower East Side bank.

Goldman Sachs got wind of this and demanded that they close the account or they would withdraw their $5,000 donation.  The Lower East Side bank refused and Goldman Sachs got back their $5,000.

How Goldman Sachs can take money out of another bank is a story for another day.

So, the money that Erin Burnett is claiming will benefit the taxpayer and lead to the end of Occupy Wall Street is not being used the way it should.  It is being used as a political hammer to bully lesser banks into towing the Wall-Street-Line.

And what of this $5,000? It is a tiny amount by bank standards.  It's almost an insult.

Of the billions of dollars that Goldman Sachs were giving to reinvest in low income communities, only half-a-cent for every dollar has been paid out.

So once again, we have the situation of banks going back on their word and throwing their bulk around to the detriment of those who oppose them.

So Erin Burnett, perhaps your next piece should do a piece on how to do investigative journalism seriously.

Criticism is good for a movement. Poorly researched mockery is not.

"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win" - Mahatma Gandhi

The Occupy Movement, 9/11 truthers and the Nazi Party

I love the Occupy Wall Street movement and its associated occupations around the world.  It give me hope for a world that I was starting to give up on.

Recently I attended Occupy Vancouver and an arrest George Busy rally. At both of these were people holding signs that read:

  • Google "Building 7"
  • 9/11 Truth ENDS 9/11 Wars
The people holding these signs are 9/11 conspiracy theorists.  The believe 9/11 was an inside job and that Building 7 was bought down by somebody for some reason.

Who were these somebodies and what were the reasons?  I don't know. The 9/11 "truthers" most often say it was either the government of some nasty corporation trying to hide something.

I could rabbit on about how wrong these truthers are, but that would be dull and uninteresting.

There are many people getting on board the Occupy movement that I disagree with.  Heck, even the America Nazi Party are on board now!

It is almost like they are sullying the movement.  You can almost here people mocking: "Ha!  The Nazis support the occupy hippies!  What a flawed movement, it is bound to fail."

I would quite frankly prefer it if these and others would just shut up and move on.

But I am only one voice.  Others get their voice too, even if they are wrong.

But please, let us not confuse "People with idiotic views support the movement" with "The movement is idiotic".

Welcome to!

Malcolm Trevena in his natural environment
Welcome to!  The blog of Malcolm Trevena.

Here I will post thoughts about what interests me.  Everything from development, democracy to religion or lack thereof.

It is a continuation of a blog I wrote years ago that has fallen into disuse, mostly due to the lack of bandwidth in developing countries where I often frequent.

I am the founder of Meaningful Volunteer, a 100% non-profit volunteer placement organization.  This blog represents my opinions and should not be taken as Meaningful Volunteer's position on any topic.

So hang around, subscribe to the feed and enjoy your stay.